Rick Freyer & Keith Johnson, Spectral Audio
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Stereophile does a much better job of remembering David Hafler's history than I could here, although they pass on how he popularized the "ultralinear" tube circuit:( http://stereophile.com/news/11661/ ). Bill Johnson single-handedly resurrected tubes( with the SP-2 & 3 preamps/D-150 amp), after SS had blown them in the weeds during the sixties, and spawned an industry that is embraced by all those of us that love the sound of live music. He and Jim Winey teamed up back then and sold Johnson's pieces, demo-ing them with Magneplanars as a system. About the time that Audio Research gear became more widely distributed, and Jon Dahlquist released the DQ-10, The first time-aligned/matched & free standing driver(all but the woofer) speaker system in production: John Curl designed the JC-2 which was probably the first piece of High-end" gear ever: a little negative feedback to reduce the IM distortion that plagued SS, pure class A push-pull, a separate board for moving-coil cartridges, and an outrageous(for the times) price of $1050.00. The piece sounded so good for the day: it forced tube designers to make their equipment sound better. We have all benefitted from the designs of these men, and the strivings for better sound that their designs started. AND ABSOLUTLY: It all started with Thomas Alva Edison, and the machine he actually intended just to take dictation!!! Is that what you had in mind Nrenter? I agree- the background does make the nomination more interesting.
I wonder if Audiogon could arrange a mechanism where we could elect 20 folks year one and a slate every year for additions. I find the tale of the designers, their approaches to technical issues, and to some extent their success in the market to be interesting. When you get to talk with or meet with some of these folks you find they all have an interesting story and views on the art of making equipment that works well and sounds good. I was originally thinking of amp/pre amp folks when I posed the question, but of course that was a bit limiting wasn't it, and an explanation of why the person is mentioned is essential, it is proabably the core of what would appear on their "plaque". So in the speaker category:
1. Bobby Palkovic, Merlin Systems - for perfecting the 2-way speaker and finding an innovative solution to producing satisfying bass from this design.
2. Ed Vilchur - Acusitic Research - for succesfully implemeting the acoustic suspension principle.
3. Richard Vandersteen - Vandersteen Audio - for producing highly successful and "affordable" speakers using time & phase coherence as their underlying principal.
4. Peter Walker & Jim Winey, Quad and Magenplanar - for perfecting the electrostatic design principle.
5. Paul Klipsch - Klipsch - for pioneering the horn loading principle.
If we use your criteria of "......some of the great designers for engineering skill and knowledge...........", then this list is somewhat flawed. The list, as it stands now, looks to me as if it was assembled from image, as opposed to actual engineering know-how.
Either that, or you will have to re-define your criteria. In that case, it might could stand.
I can think of a bunch of them, but, how about Bill Firebaugh of Well Tempered. Here is an example of real ingenuity and thinking out of the box. Whether you like the sound of his turntables or not, you have to admit it shows original thinking. Look at the platter bearing...zero play and so simple and efficient. Also on that note, lets not forget Ed Vilchur of Acoustic Research. The father of the modern suspended turntable. Everything since has been influenced by his work.
Alex Peychev, APL Hi-Fi, for his digital component designs and other audiophile level products.
Lest Alex be dismissed as a "modder", would you disagree that Carroll Shelby, who designed the AC Cobra using modified elements, was/is a great auto designer and that the Shelby Cobras are legendary automobiles?
Alex's digital players consist of his designs that are built with the use of excellent OEM transports and retaining other useful OEM elements, but there is a complete APL rework that is unique in design (and resulting sound quality).
He also offers products that are fully designed and built by APL.
If this was ever true about Alex's products it no longer is. Alex's NWO series of CDPs, expecially the NWO 3.0 has been referred to as the best digital in the world by almost all who have heard it, better than SOTA competetors, whether they cost more or less than the NWO. I would stand behind my earlier post with this as justification for the classification as legendary.